Miscellaneous Day Part I

Written by  //  August 18, 2010  //  Law & The Judiciary  //  3 Comments

(This piece of “fact”-ion is based on an average miscellaneous day for an average junior. Any resemblance to persons living, dead or undead is probably coincidental and maybe unintentional… unless they are undead in which case we offer our humble apologies to our Zombie Overlords)

So you think you’re too good for the law firm. You’ve turned down offers with a snort of derision and an email, barely hiding your contempt for the corporate law world. The grime and dirt of litigation in the lower courts are way beneath you and you shudder at the thought of being in a classroom again, so teaching’s out of the question. You think you can tell the difference between the doctrine of legitimate expectation and promissory estoppel (better than the Supreme Court for that matter). So the only career option for you is the highest of the high, the most important of the most important-est, the Supreme Court of India itself. Naturally, since you just finished law, you’ve got to start at the lowest level at the highest level… junior to Senior Advocate.

So you join a Senior who actually pays cold hard cash (in the form of tax deducted cheques every month) for your “services”. Your “services”, you will realize very quickly, involve following him around on Miscellaneous Day in the Supreme Court; Monday and Friday every week.

Hah, miscellaneous day, you think. Been there and done that, you tell yourself like an old pro. In fact the sum total of your experience of miscellaneous day has been the naps you took in the visitor’s gallery in the various courtrooms while you interned with another Senior. It was mostly fun too, watching lawyers of all shapes, sizes, accents, stages of hair loss and sense of self importance attempt to convince judges in 2 minutes or less, the need to admit their particular case for further scrutiny. That didn’t seem so hard. Or complicated. This seems like a particularly easy piece of lemon cheesecake with soft icing and a cherry on to… ahem. Very easy. Yes.

On your first Saturday in Delhi you see the Qutb Minar… on your desk. Except it turns out to be the pile of matters for Monday. Prepare notes on everything by tomorrow and be ready with all the facts. By tomo. This is an unusual miscellaneous day right? I mean not every weekend is gone thanks to miscellaneous day, right? The more “experienced” juniors titter among themselves and give each other knowing smiles and just as you’re wondering what intra-office sexual innuendo you’re missing out on, one of them helpfully clarifies that this is every miscellaneous day…. Ever.

As you cry silent tears for your weekends lost, and work your way through the pile of poorly drafted SLPs, you console yourself with the fact that at least, this is “real” lawyering work. At least you’re using legal skills and not just your proficiency at Microsoft Word 2007 ™.

You spend the weekend on carefully crafted and well researched notes. On Sunday evening as you help your boss prepare for Monday, there comes a crushing realization. All your notes are entirely useless. Your boss has his own notes. Handed written with all the citations in his own short hand. You make yourself marginally useful by picking up the cases from the office library for tomorrow.

On the day itself, you feel all important and lawyerly in your lawyer robes, stride confidently into the Supreme Court… and join the long, long queue of lawyers waiting for a photo-identity pass. By the time you fill out the form and wait for your turn to come, you sport the dirtiest look and it shows on your pass. The poor light and low resolution webcam make you look like more like a convicted criminal and less like the appellate court litigator you imagine yourself to be. You stand in line again at the gate and quietly curse the lucky few who managed to get the proximity card before the SCBA’s internecine warfare put a sudden end to the process. You’ve got a mentioning matter in Court 1 and it is 10:29:45 already.

You rush into court 1… and get shoved right out. There’s a solid wall of black blocking your way. Lawyers jammed in tight into the passage leading upto the Bar. To the sane and rational mind, there is no way in. But this is Miscellaneous Day. Sanity and rationality were stopped outside the court for not having proximity cards. You adopt the path of least resistance and most privacy invasive. You start by identifying the tiniest gaps, non-obvious to all but the most discerning eye, and like a particularly skilful octopus, insert yourself into these gaps. Soon, enough of you is trapped between the bodies and gowns, and the natural churning and movements of human bodies trapped in an enclosed space sees you getting spat out somewhere in the direction of the Bar. Mentioning has begun and you barely catch enough breath to mention your matter, and turn around to repeat the process, only this time trying to get out of the court. Before you know it (no, actually it’s like a particularly tortuous eon, but you want to block it out of your mind) you’re in the corridor, all ready and set to begin the Miscellaneous Day Run. 14 matters, 11 courts… all likely to reach at approximately the same time. So it begins.

Two matters down and you’re gasping for breath and losing liquid mass faster than an icecube in the Thar. You run to the cafeteria, toss money in the general direction of the cashier, grab bottles of water and chug them down as you hustle off to Court with renewed vigour to the next matter.

The clerk’s there, outside court. Evidently looking for you. He tells you what you don’t want to hear. Pass-over lena padega. Saab high court gaya. You groan. Not this matter, not this court, not this judge. Once more you contort yourself, intercept others’ sneezes and coughs in the process and finally land up close to the Bar, just as your matter is being called out. “Passover” you gasp, hoping that the judge is too overworked, harassed or just too annoyed to bother you with further questioning.

Or he could just be too overworked, harassed or just too annoyed to indulge the juniors of over paid senior counsel. Shit.

He glares at you, narrows his eyes, and says the one thing you did not want to hear.

“Why?”

(to be continued)

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A Supreme Court/Delhi High Court lawyer who writes a bit with a potentially fatal weakness for hyperlinks, tags, and the reader's approval. Follow @alokpi

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